“Brown sugar,” “honey”—these could be endearing pet names sweetly uttered by a romantic partner, but it turns out they’re also ingredients in an exfoliating scalp scrub. Have you ever scratched your scalp and seen gunk packed under your fingernails? Gross, right? This icky layer can be caused by multiple factors, such as product, sweat and sebum buildup. (Sebum is a natural hair oil that can harden into a crust under certain conditions.) In all these cases, this funky buildup can clog your hair follicles and possibly lead to hair loss or stunted hair growth. But don’t panic. You can clean this gunk from your scalp without damaging your hair—or breaking the bank. Below is a recipe for a brown sugar scalp scrub, from CurlyNikki.com. You can find others at Longhairdontcare.net, along with suggestions on how to use the scrub to de-clog your dome and free your tresses to grow.

Assemble the recipe ingredients. For this simple homemade scalp scrub, you’ll need 4 tablespoons of finely ground brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of your favorite silicone-free conditioner and 1 tablespoon of honey. Thoroughly mix these ingredients together. Also search the Internet for other scalp scrub recipes that add yogurt, shea or mango butter or coconut milk to the mix. (Be careful of recipes that include oatmeal. Unless this breakfast favorite is very finely ground when placed in the mixture, oatmeal crumbs can get stuck in your mane.)

Apply the scrub evenly. Remember, the goal is to clean your scalp—not your hair—so concentrate your mixture on your head not your locks. To accomplish this, first part your tresses into sections. Then, go section by section and gently massage the scrub onto your scalp with the pads of your fingers using circular motions. (Don’t scrub too hard; use just enough pressure to lift the gunk off the scalp.) When you’re done, rinse the scalp thoroughly; then cleanse and moisturize your hair as usual.

Caution: Don’t overdo this exfoliating cleanse. Even though a little massage might feel good on your head, you can damage your scalp by scrubbing too frequently.

And if you find your scalp itches continuously no matter what treatments you try, then check with a hair professional or dermatologist to see what other problems you might have. Excessive itching may be caused by an overly dry scalp or from other medical conditions.

Click here to read about the top five medical conditions that contribute to thinning hair.